Why this president teaches first-year students—and 3 lessons he learned

When first-year students arrive on campus, they often worry whether they'll succeed in college and whether they'll fit in, writes Marvin Krislov, president of Pace University, for Forbes.

That's why Pace enrolls every first-year student in UNV 101, a bridge-to-college course that teaches young people how to succeed in college academically, socially, and emotionally. "It encourages them to be thoughtful about skills, habits and behaviors, and it helps them confront what for many is an entirely new, independent way of living," writes Krislov.

After teaching UNV 101 every week in fall 2018, Krislov found that first-year students need life skills just as much as—if not more than—academic skills. In his article, Krislov shares three takeaways from his experience teaching first-year students:

1: Students need more than academic support. Krislov found that he needed to equip students not only with the tools they would need to succeed academically, but also with information about where they could find help. "My students were entering a new world and they were nervous," writes Krislov. "They were afraid they didn't have what it takes, that they would never succeed in college."

That's why Pace's course devotes a significant amount of time to teaching students about the support services available to them, such as advising offices and tutoring centers, writes Krislov. The course also offers students an academic advisor and a peer leader, and it also provides students with easy, low-stakes opportunities for meeting one another.

2: Students need better time management skills. Krislov writes that many first-year students struggle when they arrive on campus because their schedules are no longer regimented by their teachers or parents. "Some [students] forgot to eat at times, or at least to eat at mealtimes," writes Krislov. "Some struggled to balance time for schoolwork and for social activities, or to have the opportunity to study properly for tests."

He points to a survey of 3,000 students in which 87% reported that they sometimes or always struggle with managing their time. In that same survey, 59% of students also said that procrastination is their biggest impediment to time management.

Want to keep students in college? Teach them how to study.

In UNV 101, Krislov helped students plan their schedules and prioritize obligations. "My recommendation is always to block time for everything—the time you'll work on that problem set, the hour for laundry, the two hours for watching YouTube with friends—and to break big projects into manageable, plannable chunks," he writes.

3: Students can't do it on their own. "To me, the most important thing a transition class can do is give [first-year] students these all-important life skills," writes Krislov. He adds that each person in a student's life—from parents to teachers to advisors—can help set students up for success before they even step onto campus.

But, he warns, "there's a fine line to walk. We need to respect our students as adults, but, especially for traditional students coming from family homes, we also need to help them take control of their lives" (Krislov, Forbes, 2/20).

Also see: This college president wants students to be safe at parties. So he parties with them.


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